HOUSTON Astros pitcher Brandon Backe hit his first career homer, a two-run shot, and allowed one run in seven innings to keep Houston in the thick of the NL wild-card chase with an 11-5 rout of the Cincinnati Reds on Monday.
Jeff Bagwell, Lance Berkman and Jeff Kent also homered, helping the Astros extend their season-high winning streak to 10 games. Houston is on its longest winning streak in five years and has won 18 of 21 since Aug. 15, the best record in the majors during that stretch.
Braves 3, Phillies 1
ATLANTA Replacement starter Travis Smith pitched five solid innings and Andruw Jones homered again for the Braves.
Smith (1-3), who has spent most of the season at Triple-A, got the start when Mike Hampton couldn't go because of a stiff neck. The 31-year-old journeyman allowed five hits and a run before giving way to the bullpen.
Cubs 9, Expos 1
CHICAGO Aramis Ramirez hit a pair of two-run homers and Carlos Zambrano allowed four hits in eight innings to lead the Cubs.
Brewers 9, Pirates 5
PITTSBURGH Brady Clark drove in four runs and Milwaukee used a six-run third inning to beat Pittsburgh.
Geoff Jenkins homered leading off the second, then followed Clark's two-run single in the pivotal third with a two-run double against Pirates starter Ryan Vogelsong (4-12).
Padres 7, Cardinals 3
SAN DIEGO Ryan Klesko singled in the go-ahead run with none out in the eighth inning and San Diego ended St. Louis' nine-game winning streak.
San Diego remained 2 1/2 games behind the Chicago Cubs in the tight wild-card race, with San Francisco and Houston also ahead of the Padres.
The Cardinals, the best team in baseball, lead the Cubs by 16 1/2 games in the NL Central.
With the score tied at 3 and the bases loaded in the eighth, Klesko hit a chopper over the head of first baseman Albert Pujols to score Ramon Vazquez.
The Padres quickly blew it open against reliever Cal Eldred (3-1). Khalil Greene followed with a sacrifice fly, Terrence Long had a pinch-hit RBI single and another run scored on the play on a throwing error by Pujols.
Reliever Scott Linebrink (7-1) pitched 1 1-3 innings for the win.
Trevor Hoffman came on in the ninth with runners on first and third and none out and retired the side for his 35th save in 39 opportunities.
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